*Warning: this post may contain nuts (and other genitals).*
I’ve just got back from a couple of weeks in London. While I was there, I binged on Britain – I drank in every pub, ate in every tea room, lined up in every job centre.
It was my first trip back, and I was surprised by the things I’d missed. Here they are.
I met Alex 10 years ago.
When I realised I was punching above my weight, I proposed. We married, had kids, and argued over which traits they picked up from us (good looks and playfulness – Alex; bad eyesight and skin allergies – me).
This is our kettle. God it’s awful.
Just look at it.
With its stuck-up spout and pretentious double handle that’s too hot to lift without an oven glove.
It doesn’t even have a measure on the side to let you know how many cups it will make. It just arrogantly expects you to know by sight.
And it’s annoying. So annoying. When it’s done, it’s just dying to let you know with a high-pitched whistle. “Oooooh look at me everybody, I’ve boiled the water AND I’m shrieking”. Frickin’ show-off.
Today is exactly 6 months since we left the UK.
In that time, Alex has taken up running, Daisy has tantrummed in some of the biggest public spaces in Northern California, and Ava has turned into a walking, talking all-American kid. Me? The main change I’ve noticed is that I wear white socks more than I used to, without worrying about my street cred.
Here’s the 16 things we’ve learned since we got here… Continue reading 16 things we’ve learned about life in the US.
So, um, Christmas Day was a little different this year.
We took the kids out for a walk in Santa Cruz, stopping at the harbour to eat raisin bread. And then we spent the rest of the day at Twin Lakes beach. The beach. On Christmas Day. As you do.
Well, we’ve done it.
We’ve eaten ice cream, paid too much for groceries, and driven dangerously close to opposing traffic. But now we can finally declare ourselves expats. The adventure starts here.
Before we left we’d read and heard a lot of horror stories about long-haul flying with kids. For a while Alex and I were junkies on the stuff, binging on epic tales of tears and vomit. But we were ready. We packed spare clothes for all of us. We brought enough food to feed the whole plane. Our iPad was bursting at the seams with new apps, games and films. Moments before we boarded, I found Alex in a trance-like state, banging her head repeatedly against the wall. We even created fake birth certificates so we could publicly disown them if all hell broke loose.
But the flight was a doddle. The kids were great, and we didn’t receive a single dirty look from anyone the entire flight. Apart from Ava of course, but she’s been pissed off ever since I revealed that Kinder Eggs aren’t sold in the US.
Little-known fact: Kinder Eggs are illegal in the US. They’ve had a ban on candies with embedded toys since 1938, due to choking/health concerns. Which is an interesting priority, given the number of people in the US accidentally shot by a toddler with a gun. I digress…
To be honest, I am a bit concerned that this move is sending Ava off the rails. Take a look at the displays of rebellion below, first in Heathrow and then on the other side in California. The kid is just a year or two away from a DUI and her own reality show.
We arrived two days ago. On our very first morning, I witnessed a car break-in in broad daylight, right outside the local Starbucks. I thank my company for arranging this on my behalf, which I suspect was part of the planned orientation.
So far we’ve been fairly productive. We picked up the rental cars, set up a bank account, did a food shop, and were given a tour of the surrounding areas. When you throw toddlers and jet lag into the mix, all of the above become extreme sports in their own right. But here’s what we’ve learned:
- Even when people are under pressure, the customer service out here is second to none. At Hertz they were short-staffed and there was a queue outside the door. The guy in charge passed out an enormous box of cookies for waiting customers, to apologise for the wait. In the UK, you’d consider yourself lucky if you got as much as eye contact in that scenario.
- American banks love paperwork. Just to open a single account, I spent an hour solidly signing my name. This explains why woodcutters in California drive Bentleys and not trucks.
- Navigating the supermarket requires a satnav and superhuman will power. The place is enormous, and I reckon 85% of it is bad for you. On the plus side, we can buy one sandwich and it will feed the four of us.
Today is July 4th, which is when Americans celebrate the time Will Smith saved them from aliens. My boss has kindly invited us to a bbq and pool party, ending in a fireworks display. Alex and the girls are all pretty excited about it, mainly because they get to spend the day with people other than me. Based on her performance so far this morning, Daisy is planning to mark the event by crying all day.
Happy Independence Day, people.